5 Ways AI is Improving Gaming

AI has become an integral part of our daily lives. It helps us find shows we are interested in, find products we want to buy, and answer our questions through conversational programs like Alexa and Siri. Another way that AI has been vastly improved is in the realm of gaming. 

Video games have become massively successful in recent times, and as technology improves, video games improve alongside it. AI has made video games into one of the most financially lucrative businesses whether that be through single-player or multiplayer games. These improvements can be seen in a number of ways. This article discusses the most important improvements gaming has gained from utilizing AI.

Immersion

When playing a game, one aspect that is heavily focused on is the immersion of the player into the world the developers have created. Much like a book or movie, video games can suck you into the game and lose track of everything except the game itself. Video games do this in a multitude of ways. 

The most prominent way is through the NPCs (Non-player characters) in games, whether they are the townspeople giving helpful information, the opponents hunting you down, or teammates aiding the hero. The most common use of NPCs is for the random people you would be coming across. Each NPC will have various amounts of AI implementation whether that be movement pathing and dialogue options of the various characters in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, or could be as complex as countering your strategies to beat you like the enemy forces of XCOM. 

A major way this is implemented is through a system known as the Finite State Machine which uses the health value of an NPC and goes through a set response when encountering the player character. Though simplistic, this gives the AI a somewhat lifelike feel as they try to survive rather than just stand around. Another model that is more complex is the Monte Carlo Search Tree which is the famous chess-playing AI that regularly beats human players. This uses a multitude of random trials in order to problem solve and finds the best solution to win.

The greatest example of AI comes from Alien: Isolation and the always iconic Xenomorph. The AI of the alien has been lauded as one of the greatest feats of modern gaming with it hunting you down relentlessly. The developer used a philosophy he called ‘psychopathic serendipity’, making the alien appear when needed but functioning like a horror movie villain by disappearing for varying amounts of time. This keeps the player on their toes and ruins the player’s plans. 

Content Generation

AI has had more effect on video games today than ever before, and a major reason for that is the ability of AI  to change things on the fly. One of the most prevalent ways AI functions is by way of a random numbers generator which uses numeric values to give random rewards to the player.

There are a few main philosophies to this process

  • Simulation-based
  • Constructionist
  • Grammars
  • Optimization
  • Constraint Driven

The different ways of building the world and the loot can be done in multiple ways. One such way is the constructionist way where the AI has a proverbial toy box of parts that they put together on the fly whether it works or not. Another is the optimization method which finds the best choice for loot compared to the player character, these methods can make a game’s whole identity through its method of content generation. These processes have different ways of accomplishing the same goal, that being creating a new experience every time the game is loaded up.

One example of this is the ever-popular game Fortnite, which uses these programs to determine what loot will come from opening a chest and determining where these chests will spawn. This makes the game vastly replayable as every game is practically random on how far you can progress as your opponents might get more powerful than you or you might win with your first set of prizes.

Another example is the Borderlands franchise. These games are all about acquiring the best loot through defeating enemies and bosses to get the best statistics on their weapon of choice. The AI running this process not only has to artificially create the stats but also model the weapons based on those values.

Each part of the weapon has a choice between many different parts split among a few different developers, this has given the title the seemingly outrageous claim of having “A Billion Guns”. Though seemingly impossible for any developer, the power of AI has made an almost infinitely replayable franchise as long as the numbers hold one of the statistics back from a perfect value.

Pathfinding

AI has had many practical applications throughout its history. Starting in the late 1990s and 2000s, the advent of pathfinding AI emerges, one of AI’s most simplistic and highly beneficial applications. The start of the 3D gaming age brought along the development of “open-world” games which meant some maps became confusing for the average player. There needed to be a way for people to find their way on an increasingly more complex map. AI was the only real option for creating an easy and helpful tool for navigating the digital world much like how GPS systems were becoming more popular in the real world.

The original pathfinding AI was a simple compass arrow that was normally above the character or in the bottom corner of the screen, showing the way for much more simplistic titles where it is far flatter. It simply uses a single point on the map such as the objective and gives you the general direction rather than a direct route.

This would change when Grand Theft Auto 3 and other games of the time where the AI & algorithm would plot out the fastest route to the area using the paths and roads that would get there the quickest. This practice would be used for many games throughout the years, whether it be huge open-world titles like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim or the Assassins Creed franchise, or small-scale games such as the Need for Speed franchise or Smite which merely leads you towards simple points in a straight path or small map.

Choice Based Progression 

As gaming becomes more advanced, player decisions have become a much more integral part of the gaming-making process. The choices that we make in the games of today have ripple effects that could affect the entire in-game world, changing everything that you had been through before. Many of today’s games end up like a Dungeons & Dragons campaign where choices the player makes either negatively or positively affect the world around them. AI has a very important part in making this a reality through choice-based progression

A great example of this would be the games developed by Quantic Dream where the entire design philosophy is giving the player choices that create their own personal ending. The magnum opus of the company is Detroit: Become Human where the player can go through more than 80 different paths to get to 16 unique endings, forging a story through the player’s actions. The AI uses the choices and actions of the player in order to unlock paths and guide the player through to the ending that they get to.

Anti-Cheat

Since gaming has existed people have tried to get an edge over the game. Whether those be fun additions such as invincibility codes or unintentional inclusion such as going through walls. Though these are considered mostly harmless, cheating in online games is a far more ill-willed endeavor. People have either developed or paid others to use hacking software in order to see through walls, hit every shot, or any other unfair advantage that only a computer could give.

Many companies that have online components have utilized AI to crack down on these cheaters. One such company is Ubisoft using the AI software BattlEye which has been heralded as the gold standard of these programs. BattlEye relentlessly hunts down hackers and their programs in order to stop them from their cheating ways. This process is done through kernel-based systems and scanners through the player’s system in order to make sure no abnormal programs are running at the same time. It is also highly customizable in its ability to detect making it highly malleable for any other game’s use, which it has done for 54 different titles.

If cracking down on cyber criminals sounds appealing as a career path, this article will help you get started.

Contributor

Kyle Fritz graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University in the Spring of 2021 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication.

About Kyle Fritz

Kyle Fritz graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University in the Spring of 2021 with a Bachelor's Degree in Communication.

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